Club Legal Considerations for the New Year
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Paul R. Bedard, Esquire
Given the effort required to create a financially successful health club, it is imperative to protect your business by minimizing your legal risk. Potential legal issues, like sales objections, are best addressed by acting preemptively. The first quarter of each new year is as good a time as any to take stock of your preparedness for the legal hazards that lurk within our industry. This article has been produced by request of Club Insider Publisher, Norm Cates, to help club owners and operators focus on important legal matters for their clubs and deal with them appropriately.
This article will identify some of our industry's most common legal risks and provide some proven suggestions to help mitigate these risks. However, this article is not intended as legal advice. Widely varying state and local laws, and factors unique to every situation, prohibit one-size-fits-all recommendations. Please consider these comments as a guide to help you when you consult your own attorney for specific direction.
Premises Liability Claims
Premises liability claims are commonplace within our industry. To protect your business from these claims, ensure that your liability waiver is comprehensive without being overly broad. At a minimum, your waiver should specifically bar claims due to employee negligence, identify the activities and inherent risks within your facility, describe the assumption of risk on the part of the member, and be in conspicuous and clear language. However, overly broad waivers that bar claims for any and all injuries are typically found to be against public policy, and therefore, unenforceable. A proper liability waiver will protect from most claims arising out of sudden or unforeseen accidents but will not protect against claims stemming from intentional acts or gross negligence.
What to do? We owe our guests a reasonable duty of care, protecting them from injuries caused by reasonably foreseeable dangers. Maintain a facility inspection and maintenance schedule in order to be aware of any dangerous conditions. Document this schedule in writing to provide proof of this practice. Facility defects left disregarded, or even an unknown defect that reasonably should have been known, may be deemed gross negligence and expose you to liability.
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